Jun 29 2023
Chris Lawrence | Metro News
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — It’s been a year since the passing of Woody Williams. However, the memory of the World War II Medal of Honor recipient is still very much alive in work of the foundation he left behind.
“We were left with very direct orders,” laughed Chad Graham, President and CEO of the Woody Williams Foundation. “Anyone who ever had the opportunity and blessing to encounter Woody and spend some time with him knew the focus of his life was serving others.”
Woody’s focus in recent years had been on Gold Star Families. He felt a strong obligation to offer support and love to those left behind when a service member was killed in action in service to the nation. The foundation is heavily involved in the construction and installation of the Gold Star Family Monuments all over the country. The work to build the monuments continues today, but Graham said the mission is well beyond the giant black and gold markers.
“The program part of our mission has grown tremendously. It’s not just monuments, it’s outreach events and it’s scholarships, and all of those things have continued to grow even in the last year,” he explained.
According to Graham, the monuments become the “forward operating base” of the foundation. Wherever one is located, the foundation works to create opportunities to aid and improve the lives of the Gold Star Families those markers nearby represent. Scholarships or other benevolence opportunities are one way they serve the Gold Star Families. Other ways include just bringing those families together and offering them friendship and appreciation.
“One of the most simple things they’ve told us we can do to honor them is to say their loved one’s name, then their loved one lives on,” he said.
Graham and the Foundation has partnered with a number of organizations to make those things happen. Several minor league baseball teams have adopted Gold Star Family events in which large numbers of the families are given VIP treatment at a game. Other events, like rodeos or the Auto Zone Liberty Bowl and other gatherings have become partners to honor the Gold Star Families.
“We miss him dearly every day. We think of him everyday, but it’s heartwarming and we are so grateful to see the mission continue to grow. That’s exactly what he wanted and the mission will live on,” Graham said.